Integrity & Authenticity

In terms of our Quaker homeschooling, these two values are vital and central. One of the most important reasons for teaching our girls at home has to do with the quality of their learning, which is not a clear and individual focus in schools, despite NCLB. Berit and Dana both have Dyslexia and ADD – (Dana with the H). In school, the move-with-the-group method is hard on them. Berit needs to go more slowly than the average kid with regard to writing and reading as well as math, while she is beyond her age group in terms of comprehension and music (the harp), Dana is quick but her ability to focus attention wavers, and her self-regulation is immature. In a group setting she coasts and doesn’t internalize or authentically learn as well. Her teachers always sing her praises, but worry about work getting done but not absorbed. In a one-to-one setting they both thrive. The integrity of their learning is deep and honestly measurable.

The authenticity part has to do with framing the lesson in a way that is most meaningful to the child. Dana is fascinated by birds, so we couch her lessons in terms of ornithology whenever possible. Her measurements of how much bird seed her station uses in a week, for example make authentic use of her math learning, her observations of what bird species visit her station and their behavior employ her science skills, and she learns about being still so that the birds will accept her presence. She keeps a daily journal of her observations which includes record keeping and writing based on her observations. She does have schoolish lessons too: math word problems reflecting invented situations, grammar exercises emphasizing a rule but about as disconnected from authentic language use as any we ever had in school, and some Calvert/Jemicy concept lessons that really make us laugh. One of those involved cutting out a picture of a frog named Brad and pretending to feed him grapes to demonstrate consonant blends at the start of a word. We had a good hoot over that one, but our favorite was the curriculum directed me to squint at Dana and ask her “what am I doing?” in the service of getting the “qu” sound in focus. She looked at me as though I had lost my mind and said “I don’t know! Are you ok?” and it took some minutes of laughing before we discussed the phoneme and resorted to Dr. Seuss’ ABC for a clearer lesson on it. “The quick queen of Quincy and her quacking quackeroo” doesn’t sound authentic, but it was more so than my scripted squinting at her.

The integrity of their learning and the authenticity of it is probably the most important pedagogical goal we have in our homeschooling. This connects, of course, with our values for a guarded education and simplicity, plainness, and reverence in our faith and practice as Friends every day.

Some links to more scholarly treatments of authentic learning and the context of learning

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